Courage in the Face of War

Eli Yishai is the minister of Industry and Trade. But when talking with the media, he doesn't confine his remarks to the situation of the economy, or compensation for workers and business. He willingly answers questions the war as well.

Yishai has been demonstrating rare courage in his comments: he believes that the war should continue until Hizbullah is brought to its knees.

He knows that the mothers and fathers of Israel's soldiers, religious and secular alike, are losing sleep, but that there is no prospect of anybody knocking at ultra-Orthodox household doors with that worst of all news.

Possibly it would be better for the leader of a political movement, whose ideology is to disdain army service, to show some restraint regarding the war.

Roaring ahead, in neutral

Many believe that wars are followed by economic booms, so from that perspective, war is not entirely a bad thing. They are basing that opinion on the rapid economic growth boasted by Germany, Europe and Japan after World War II.

If war and devastation are the harbingers of economic growth, why shouldn't we bomb ourselves into oblivion every few years to achieve sustainable economic growth over time?

That question demonstrates the absurdity of the conviction, that war confers economic benefits. The mistake is due to incorrect measurement of the results.

The measurement of growth ignores the tremendous destruction that the war causes to villages and housing. Take for example the damage to the Kiryat Shmona mall, and to all too many buildings in the city by the border with Lebanon, which have been rendered unfit for use. When the war is over, we can expect a construction boom in Kiryat Shmona as the city replaces the destroyed edifices, and we will count it as growth, and add it to GDP. Because construction is a key sector, that sweeps along many others, the growth it produces will be significant. And people will yet again complacently say that it's an ill wind, and everything turned out better in the end.

But that is a fallacy. First you have to measure the drop in the standard of living in Kiryat Shmona among people whose homes were destroyed; and businessmen whose stores were flattened or went belly-up; and the damage to cultural centers and roads. We shall have to spend billions and labor for years to restore the situation to what it was before the war.

Therefore, the economic growth in the aftermath of war is growth, but from a lower starting point. It is an illusion. Beware of it.